Report: End Austerity Now Demonstration
All photos are credited to the writer, Lucy Pegg.
Marching against the Tories’ austerity regime, hundreds of thousands of protesters clogged the streets of London on Saturday as they took part in the End Austerity Now demonstration organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Police and organisers estimate that around 250,000 people took part in the event, making it the largest protest to take place in recent years.
But the size of the protest was not the only thing which made it remarkable. The crowd was diverse; it was old and young, made up of the angry middle classes just as much as radical anarchists. Banners and placards spoke of groups who had flocked to London from across the country, as well as the range of issues that being were protested. At the Royal Courts of Justice cuts to legal aid were decried by the crowd, whilst the smattering of Starbucks outlets along the route were met with the demand that they pay their taxes. Passing Downing Street the crowds simply booed, such blanket disapproval perhaps easier to articulate than squeezing the variety of criticism against the government into a catchy chant.
Arriving at Parliament Square crowds listened to speeches from celebrities, politicians and activists alike. Labour leader hopeful Jeremy Corbyn delivered a passionate tirade against austerity, whilst Charlotte Church reminded listeners that the welfare state works for us all. Russell Brand ended the rally, speaking with his usual blend of eloquence and anarchy of the need for activists to organise in the face of increased budget cuts. The People’s Assembly’s assertion that there would be a ‘festival’ atmosphere to the demonstration was upheld, with many lounging on the grass of Parliament Square as they recovered from march itself. Despite a small bonfire being started just outside the square by some protesters, most gathered to listen to the speeches, responding enthusiastically to calls to continue the fight in the communities they had travelled from.
The day’s events passed peacefully, with the anger of the march accompanied by a real sense of hope, humour and collectivism. With an emergency budget due on July 8th it seems dubious that George Osborne will respond to protesters’ demands, but the event made it clear that activists are not going to give up – and that increasing austerity will only be met with increasing opposition.